Denver immigrant rights groups are ready for ICE operations Sunday, even if they don’t materialize

“They could be just wanting to scare people. Either way, we are prepared.”

Immigrants rights supporters pray in a circle outside of ICE's regional headquarters in Centennial. March 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Immigrants rights supporters pray in a circle outside of ICE's regional headquarters in Centennial. March 21, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Update: President Trump tweeted Saturday he would delay enforcement, giving congress two weeks to come up with new policy on asylum and “loophole problems” at the southern border.

Local immigrant rights groups are waiting anxiously to see whether nationwide immigration detentions this weekend, targeting thousands of people, will also come to Denver.

On Friday afternoon, the Miami Herald and others reported that federal immigration authorities may be planning a “deportation crackdown” as early as pre-dawn Sunday morning. The Herald listed Denver as a possible target among other large U.S. cities, citing unnamed sources within the government.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s new chief, Mark Morgan, told reporters this week that his agency planned to target some 2,000 families who have already been served deportation orders.

Denverite has so far been unable to confirm whether ICE will be active in the city. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver said in a statement that ICE told her they would be conducting operations, but offered no specifics as to where.

ICE did not respond to Denverite’s request for comment.

Regardless, members of local immigrant rights groups say they’re taking the threat seriously.

Gladis Ibarra works with the Colorado Rapid Response Network, a multi-organizational effort that provides a hotline for people dealing with ICE and legal observers in the event someone may be detained.

She said she wouldn’t be surprised if the spreading word about Sunday “raids” is just posturing, but she and her colleagues are standing by just in case.

“They could be just wanting to scare people,” she said. “Either way we are prepared.”

City Councilwoman-elect Jamie Torres, who currently directs the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs, said the precise nature of the action is unknown. She fears federal overreach.

“These messages being sent and ramping up activity like this — we have seen it in the past,” she said. “When it becomes a point of concern is when we see ICE go further than the individuals that they are explicitly targeting.”

Groups like the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition and the Rapid Response Network have focused on “know your rights” trainings in past weeks. They hope to prevent possible detainments by encouraging people to use their right to remain silent and to recognize if immigration agents attempt to enter homes with an administrative warrant that lacks a judge’s signature.

“The good news is that we already have a good safety net,” Jordan Garcia, who also works with the Rapid Response Network, said on Tuesday.

While he was optimistic at the week’s start, his concern had heightened by Friday.

For now, he said, “We’re taking it as real.”

In a tweet, Mayor Michael Hancock said, “we do not support family separation or the round-up of immigrant families to spread fear in our community.”

Denver police said in a statement on Friday that they were not aware of any ICE operations in the city. The department does not cooperate with federal authorities.

“The Denver Police Department does not assist ICE with any enforcement action. If they ask for help due to an emergency, we will respond just like we do when anyone else asks for help,” the statement read.

Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz released a more direct statement.

“Aurora Police Officers DO NOT have the authority to detain a person based on their immigration status. They also DO NOT have the authority to investigate or enforce federal immigration laws,” he wrote (emphasis his).

Earlier this week, Rudy Gonzales, executive director of Servicios de La Raza, said the city’s Latinx community has been on high alert in recent weeks.

“It is scary,” he said. “They’re enforcing a system of oppression before our very eyes.”

This story has been updated.

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